In many languages, including English, pronouns are words that replace nouns. There are many types of pronouns, from demonstrative to interrogative to indirect. This blog will discuss the usage of personal pronouns to create an inclusive, welcoming, and open workplace. When we refer to people without using their names, we use personal gendered pronouns like he, she, and they. These words are especially important to the LBGTQ+ community as trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals may feel excluded due to incorrect pronouns. Using the correct pronouns fosters a sense of trust and respect which affirms a person’s gender identity.
While these little words may not seem like much, pronouns are a vital way to create an inclusive environment. Many of us may identify with the gender and pronouns assigned at birth, but others may use different identifiers. For example, a transgender man will often use he/him pronouns to reinforce his gender identity. Keep in mind that we don’t necessarily know a person’s pronouns by looking at them. Different people may identify as non-binary and use they/them pronouns instead of the gendered her or his. If allies are unsure about which terms to use, the best practice is to politely ask individuals what they prefer to be called. When first meeting new coworkers, make an effort to share pronouns as a normal part of the conversation. Once we know how different individuals identify, we must do our best to remember their pronouns and use them in conversations. By being considerate and courageous in our actions, we show our respect for diverse coworkers and ensure that they feel welcomed in the workplace.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of gender pronouns:
While words like they and he may be familiar to us, there are also neo pronouns like ze and ve, which may be less commonplace. Oftentimes these newer terms are used by gender non-conforming or genderqueer individuals who resist current labeling or categorization. Regardless, these pronouns are just as valid, and we must try our best to incorporate this new vocabulary into our lexicons.
Cisgender allies, individuals who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, should do their best to understand and appreciate the nuances of gender non-conforming and neo pronouns. Stereotypical gendered language is pervasive in the workplace, and it’s our job to take the first steps towards inclusion. Instead of starting meetings by saying, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,” consider using phrases like, “Good morning, everyone!” With these small changes, we can make gender non-conforming individuals more comfortable in our offices. Additionally, we must do our best to avoid misgendering our LGBTQ+ coworkers. Sometimes mistakes happen, and an incorrect pronoun may slip out in conversation. When this occurs, quickly correct yourself and apologize if you have offended the individual. Our role as allies is to support and value the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community by respecting their pronouns and gender identity. Through these courageous actions, we inspire positive change and an uptake in inclusion.
Dima Ghawi is the founder of a global talent development company. Her mission is providing guidance to business executives to develop diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and to implement a multi-year plan for advancing quality leaders from within their organization. Through keynote speeches, training programs and executive coaching, Dima has empowered thousands of professionals across the globe to expand their leadership potential. For more information, visit DimaGhawi.com and BreakingVases.com.